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Nobody's Perfect: Writings from The New Yorker

4.17  ·  Rating Details  ·  402 Ratings  ·  54 Reviews
Anthony Lane on Con Air

“Advance word on Con Air said that it was all about an airplane with an unusually dangerous and potentially lethal load. Big deal. You should try the lunches they serve out of Newark. Compared with the chicken napalm I ate on my last flight, the men in Con Air are about as dangerous as balloons.”

Anthony Lane on The Bridges of Madison County

“I got m
Paperback, 784 pages
Published September 9th 2003 by Vintage (first published August 27th 2002)
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Into Thin Air by Jon KrakauerSteve Jobs by Walter IsaacsonA Walk in the Woods by Bill BrysonIn Cold Blood by Truman CapoteThe Hot Zone by Richard   Preston
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25th out of 153 books — 40 voters
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125th out of 134 books — 54 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 781)
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Mar 22, 2008 brian rated it did not like it
i HATE anthony lane. hate. hate. hate.

this smarmy jackass writes as if he considers himself a wit equal to that of waugh or wodehouse. piss off you unfunny and insincere bore.

ridiculous that he holds the job that pauline kael once held. she could be majorly infuriating, stubborn, and just plain wrong... but, shit. she loved movies. and laid her ass on the line in defense (or offense) of one. lane, that coward, doesn't put shit out there. fuck him.
May 29, 2010 David rated it really liked it
I have no idea how goodreads orders the list of reviews for any given book and, in general, I don't really care. That said, I found it striking that the review that makes the top of the list for "Nobody's Perfect" corresponded to one of only two 1-star ratings for the book. It's a petulant "review" -- a little package of sputtering invective wrapped around "brian's" dissatisfaction that Anthony Lane is not Pauline Kael. In the ensuing comment thread, the most common charges against Lane are that ...more
Sep 14, 2007 Dave-O rated it liked it
When I can, I read an essay of Anthony Lane's out of this book before going to bed. I have to admit that when I pick up the New Yorker, I flip to the back to see if he's written the week's movie review (No offense, David Denby). His writing style is smooth, like a good drink. If he has a bone to pick with a certain director, actor or other figure he can be scathing and ruthless. On the other hand when he something moves him artistically he is sincere about his feelings. While he is intelligent a ...more
Oct 26, 2007 Charles rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: bedtime readers
This a great before bedtime read. Life to busy to focus in on a novel? Pick one or two reviews a night and be satifisfied. New Yorker reviewer weighs in on 90's movies and personalities you thought you never cared about.
Sep 24, 2012 Heather rated it it was amazing
"A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, people made movies with people in them, and some of those movies made sense. Then something happened, and the people started to vanish from the movies, along with most of the sense."

Thus begins Anthony Lane's review of The Phantom Menace. He goes on to note:
"It is, of course, profoundly gratifying that The Phantom Menace should emerge as a work of almost unrelieved awfulness. It means, for one thing, that the laugh is on all those dweebs who have spen
Rachel C.
PA, that Anthony Lane is your movie reviewer while Roger Ebert (obliquely disparaged by Lane himself in his introduction) is mine says a lot about the two of us. Check out a few of Ebert's reviews online - or better yet, one of his books - and you'll see what I mean.

Anthony Lane is snarky, hilarious and one of the most creative insulters I've ever encountered - Elizabeth Berkley, for example, probably cries herself to sleep every night. Lane is the guy you want to be laughing with in a corner at
Nancy L.
Aug 08, 2007 Nancy L. rated it it was amazing
Anthony Lane is scathingly funny and an excellent reviewer and not just because I usually agree with him. This compilation of his New Yorker film reviews and some other essays (the one about reading the New York Times bestsellers is great) is a keeper. My absolute favorite is his account of a Rocky Horror-style sing-along Sound of Music he attended in London. "There were...a load of people who looked like giant parcels. I didn't get it. 'Who are they?' I said to the nun who was having a quick ...more
Jan 04, 2013 Andrew rated it really liked it
I'm a book savorer. Like, when I like a book, and I like the writing, I like to read it slow, in morsels. And even though this is ostensibly a book of criticism, which is ostensibly "secondary" literature, there is much to savor here. And so easy to do so, as the film reviews are only a couple pages at most, and the essays don't meander much past 12 pages.

So I read this book over the course of a little more than 2 years, and loved it all. The real difference between Lane's criticism and other c
Danielle DeTiberus
Dec 05, 2010 Danielle DeTiberus rated it it was amazing
Anthony Lane, where have you been all my life!?! (Thanks, Emily!) Let's just put it this way: his review of "Indecent Proposal" made me actually go out and rent the "film" for the first time. And yes, Woody Harrelson in a shaggy wig pretending to be a high-school student IS "one of those preposterously, sublimely wrong moments that make you glad to be a moviegoer." And then there's this gem from his review of "Contact:" "She does get laid in the film, but only by Matthew McConaughey, and that do ...more
Kevin Simons
I like Anthony Lane's writing. It is clear and he is often funny. He is also such an accomplished culture vulture that I feel like an absolute rube reading him sometimes. Yes, I like movies, but I don't live for them or yearn to analyze them. I've seen movies by Eisentstein, Kubrick, Buñuel, Hitchcock, Wilder, Da Sica, and even the Farrelly brothers, but I don't really understand it all. I can't lavish that much energy or mental power–I lack that level of mental power–to see where Orson Welles b ...more
Nov 09, 2012 Joe rated it liked it
Shelves: criticism, film

Don't understand why some have the energy to hate a film critic. Anthony Lane is definitely more literary than your average movie watcher, but this is expected given that he writes literary criticism and worked for The New Yorker for so many years.

My three star review is more indicative of its use to me as an anthology rather than the quality of the writing. Unfortunately Lane wrote reviews for 1980s and 1990s films that I mostly missed during their theatrical release, so the insights are lost
Sep 18, 2007 Adam rated it really liked it
I keep wanting to write "Anthony Lane is the best kind of film critic..." but I don't really know if that's right. Jonathan Rosenbaum referred to Lane as a stand-up comic. Forgetting that this is supposed to be an insult, I think I know what's irking Rosenbaum. Reading Lane isn't necessarily going to enliven a film for you, he's not the deepest of critics, and he doesn't wear his smarts on his sleeve. I don't think his aim is to dig into a film and raise your appreciation of it -- at least, not ...more
John Jackson
Aug 15, 2007 John Jackson rated it really liked it
Anthony Lane is a marvel. More astonishingly literate, funny, and perspicacious in one paragraph of a movie review than other critics can hope to be in a career. Let alone his always being right -- putting words to (at least) my own thoughts on the movies I see. But it is the accretive effect of the movie reviews taken in sequence in the book, the book reviews that follow, and then finally the profiles that really blows the hair back. His essay on the joys of reading cookbooks -- not working fro ...more
Aug 25, 2007 Laura rated it really liked it
Shelves: criticism
While you might not always agree with Lane's reviews (I admit that his opinions and mine are quite congruent), his writing is pure New York -- trenchant, pungent, and very often bitchy (while it's too recent to be included in this collection, see if you can get your hands on his review of Revenge of the Sith). This book collects not only a Lane's writing on film, but also his writing on more general topics. His evaluation of the New York Times fiction best-seller list is as opinionated as his fi ...more
Jan 29, 2008 Pa rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: karen
If Rachel is willing to give up 50 points of her IQ for a good voice or something like that (correct me Rachel), then I'm also willing to give up 50 points of my IQ to be able to write like Anthony Lane. Brilliant, funny, playful, and full of images and imagery, this collection is a sampling of AL's film reviews as well as his one-off articles on topics ranging from Martha Stewart's cookbook to Evelyn Waugh's short short stories to Evans Walker's photography. I savored every page, every sentence ...more
Oct 10, 2007 Billy rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: A.O. Scott
The movie reviews are the best, of course -- bursts of snarky erudition, which dismantle the ridiculousness of so many films yet all the while manage to avoid being ill-tempered or condescending. The review of "Indecent Proposal" is very funny.

For some reason, his New Yorker reviews now are all about movies that he actually likes, which is helpful if you share his taste, but not if what you've really got an appetite for is the light-touched disdain. Thankfully, there's a heaping dose of that in
Feb 20, 2008 Vicki rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
There are two people's film reviews who I love and consult and trust (so far -- I'm not a snob about movies by any means). One is Roger Ebert and the other is Anthony Lane. They're both very witty and intelligent writers, and more often than not, their reviews are actually essays. Especially with Lane. He's sharp and has a really good context for anything connected to any movie he's writing about. To me that's what sends it over the top.
Rachel Rogers
Mar 27, 2008 Rachel Rogers rated it liked it
A good book for picking up and reading a review then moving on. Some of Lane's reviews are dead on, others didn't jibe with me, and others were for things I had never seen nor read.

Bridges of Madison County, both the book and movie reviews (2 separate) are perfect for my taste. My husband burst out laughing then read them to me through the giggles (and he's never read the book). Later I re-read the reviews to the same hysterics.
Mary Beth
Jun 08, 2013 Mary Beth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a critic, Lane isn't the most reliable: one gets the sense that he's often more interested in writing an entertaining essay than in seriously reviewing the film in question, but that, of course, is why he's such an entertaining essayist. Sharp-tongued and perfectly droll, Lane extravagantly lacerates those works he looks down on, and when he is impressed, he demonstrates that he's actually capable of great insights.
Jun 14, 2008 Emily rated it really liked it
"What is the point of Demi Moore?" I <3 Anthony Lane. Other than the question of Demi Moore, the review of Halloween H20 is the best piece so far, mostly because it steps into "personal essay" territory and is really quite moving. I picked this up at a stoop sale and haven't finished it yet but am psyched to read the rest, especially the profiles at the end (Preston Sturges, Billy Wilder, et al.)
Oct 29, 2007 Tony rated it really liked it
I love Anthony Lane's work in the New Yorker. This book is just a continuation of that body of excellence. Lane demonstrates a great feeling for the history of film. He's a reviewer who can use his cutting tongue to praise a film as well as strafe it.

What comes through in this book is the feeling that he likes going to the movies. A critic who likes his milieu. What are the odds of that?
Jun 09, 2014 Sean rated it it was amazing
Shelves: criticism, film
Lane is a (reappropriated) national treasure, and one of the sharpest (and easily /the/ most readable) critic currently working.
Oct 19, 2013 Annette rated it liked it
Shelves: igiveup
Like a box of rich dark truffles, I can only take this book in little pieces or I get sick. He is good at what he does, which is to chide various movies for being inane. But really, how much can you deal with it before you have to put it down?

I suspect his weekly column would be brilliant as you get to step away and enjoy life for 7 days before his next film stabbing.
Jan 28, 2009 Dan rated it really liked it
Lane writes like a love child of Pauline Kael and P.G. Wodehouse, passionate & insightful about movies and very funny, with some Woosterlike turns of phrase that bring tears to my eyes. These are mostly collected New Yorker film reviews from the 1990s and early 2000s, but they hold up well, especially the droll putdowns of pretentious turkeys.
Erik Wyse
Mar 13, 2016 Erik Wyse rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Anthony Lane is a critic of the first order. There may be no better contemporary critic when it comes to undressing sub-par fare, and here in this collection there are more than a few movies deserving of heat. The book should be required reading for anyone interested in writing about movies, or being a critic in any other sense.
Feb 06, 2008 Iben rated it really liked it
If you enjoy the New Yorker's film review section, then definitely check out this book. My favorite aspect of this book is that it is not just a collection of reviews of films he actually enjoyed. Instead, it's a collection of his best writing on film. The review of "Indecent Proposal" alone is worth the cost of the book.
Feb 05, 2013 Syntax787 rated it liked it
it was ok, most of what he critiqued i havent seen. so i can neither agree or disagreee with the majority of the book. for the movies i did see, i thought his views were ok. everyone has their own oppinions on things, i critique things more generally, and he is more detailed than i am so i can learn from what he said.
Jul 21, 2007 Andrew rated it it was amazing
The films "Deep Impact" and "Speed 2" may not deserve viewing, but Anthony Lane's reviews of them make me happy they were created -- if only to get Lane's profound, funny and insightful bitch slaps. His reviews of film and literature through early 2000 are collected in this marvelous book. Read it!
Sep 10, 2011 Molly rated it it was amazing
Not just hilarious but spot on. The first thing I look for when I open the New Yorker is to see if Lane wrote the movie reviews for that issue. Now, I can read the best of at my leisure including priceless accounts of Indecent Proposal, Don Juan, and Showgirls.
Dec 10, 2007 Molly rated it it was amazing
Shelves: rereads
I have such a crush on Anthony Lane. I'll be reading and rereading these superb essays when I no longer remember the films themselves. (Plus, the hardcover edition includes an image of Buster Keaton on the cover.)
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Anthony Lane has been a film critic for The New Yorker since 1993. Lane became the deputy literary editor of The Independent, in London, in 1989, and, a year later, a film critic for The Independent on Sunday.

In 2001, Lane’s reviews were awarded the National Magazine Award for Reviews and Criticism. His writings for The New Yorker are collected in the book “Nobody’s Perfect.”

Lane lives in Cambridg
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“Cookbooks, it should be stressed, do not belong in the kitchen at all. We keep them there for the sake of appearances; occasionally, we smear their pages together with vibrant green glazes or crimson compotes, in order to delude ourselves, and any passing browsers, that we are practicing cooks; but in all honesty, a cookbook is something you read in the living room, or in the bathroom, or in bed.” 4 likes
“That's the trouble with cookbooks. Like sex education and nuclear physics, they are founded on an illusion. They bespeak order, but they end in tears.” 2 likes
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